Guildmages are the coolest creatures living on Ravnica. Each time on the plane we’ve been blessed with a full cycle of 2/2 creatures for two mana with two activated abilities. These uncommons become engines in a deck dedicated to their guild, and they are early picks in every draft. At the very least, they’re Grizzly Bears you can trade off to stay alive. If they stick on the board into the late game, they take over.

The original cycle featured hybrid mana costs, with repeatable activated abilities in each of their two colors. They were really good in original Ravnica block drafts. Dimir Guildmage and Selesnya Guildmage even made cameo appearances in Modern Masters 2015, and they did great work there as well.

When we came back for Return to Ravnica block, the designers had to get creative with names. Now each guildmage features the name of the guild headquarters, some of which had been printed as uncommon lands in the first Ravnica block. You may recall Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree from Ghazi-Glare decks from Ravnica Standard. More recently, you may recall this guildmage absolutely wrecking people in draft and sealed.

Functionally, these change from hybrid cards that you could play with only a single color (albeit with less utility), to full gold cards that require both colors to cast and to activate each ability. When you’re drafting a focused deck in that guild, however, the difference is merely theoretical. Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage was a “mythic uncommon” and one of the best first picks in Return to Ravnica draft. The rest of the cycle were strong as well, providing repeatable mana sinks on an efficient body.

Now that we are deep in Guilds of Ravnica spoiler season, we have seen the latest additions to the august ranks of guildmages. This time they’re the same as RTR block, but their abilities require tapping. That’s a big downgrade, but there’s plenty of room for guildmages to be weaker and still be amazing in Limited. Let’s look at what our new toys can do!

All three Selesnya guildmages make tokens. Six mana and a tap for a 2/2 vigilance token is not the most exciting, but it is still very good. The green ability looks like a throwaway ability, but I suspect it will prove valuable. Whether you’re attacking with one big dumb dinosaur or an army of 2/2 tokens, giving your army trample adds up. You don’t want to spend a card on trample, but you are happy to have it sitting there making your opponents sweat their blocks. Often how they block won’t even matter, and the trample ability will add a few extra points of damage to the face on top of whatever you do to their board.

Here’s another throwaway green ability that’s actually nice to have: gain two life. I doubt there will be many shenanigans from gaining life, but repeatable lifegain is a nice tool to have in your Limited deck. Pumping and menacing your team is a game-winning play, often in one turn. Even if you have to do it a couple times, that’s still pretty good. Korozda Guildmage gave one creature intimidate, and it ended a lot of games. This version seems mostly better, even if you can’t pump multiple times.

Locking down a tapped creature gets pretty close to removal. Past Dimir guildmages have suffered a bit by not interacting with the board, other than as a bear. This one can freeze a key threat from attacking you, and can negate other guildmages fairly well. Plus you get a repeatable surveil two, which sounds amazing. That’s close to drawing a card on its own, and it triggers all sorts of surveil abilities that are the Dimir specialty of Guilds of Ravnica. Go read Zach Barash’s brilliant article about surveil, and think about having House Guildmage in play for all of that.

And there it is: draw a card. Four mana is kind of the going rate for that ability. It’s too bad you can’t double up when you have eight mana, but we can’t have everything. The spell-copying ability resembles that of both Izzet Guildmage and Nivix Guildmage, and is actually cheaper when you copy Lightning Bolt or Opt. League Guildmage looks bonkers to me—a better version of the old guildmages and a true engine for a spell-heavy deck.

And finally we get the Boros member of the cycle. Surely it must be the leader of a fearsome army! Well, maybe not so much. Instead of pumping your team or making tokens, this guildmage goes straight to the face. Six mana for Lava Spike is not great, but you’ll be happy to have this ability when your aggressive Boros deck flood out. Or you can tap down another creature. That helps you beat down, and can even provide some defense if you need it. I like that Boros isn’t all about a relentless assault this time around. That said, I expect to die to three damage a turn more often than I’d like.

So, which of the new guildmages excited you the most? Will any of these prove to be another mythic uncommon?

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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